When UAW president Shawn Fain meets President Joe Biden Thursday in Belvidere, Illinois, he’ll have a lot to say, but it won’t include offering an endorsement in the 2024 election.
“We’re going to make endorsements in the proper time,” Fain said during a recorded interview shown at the Reuters Automotive USA 2023 conference in Detroit on Wednesday.
“Right now we’re 100% focused on getting, you know, these contracts to the finish line,” Fain went on to say.
Fain and Biden are set to meet in Belvidere Thursday in the aftermath of contentious contract negotiations with General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis that ended last week. Union members are in the process of voting whether or not to ratify the four-and-a-half-year deals.
A key win for the union was bargaining with Stellantis to not only reverse its decision to close the sprawling Belvidere Assembly Plant northwest of Chicago, but to add a battery plant as well.
Earlier, in a in live webcast, Fain took a victory lap, defended the deals and laid the gauntlet for the next round of contract talks in 2028.
In a roughly 35-minute monologue, Fain ran down the list of gains won after more than five weeks of cascading “stand up strike” walkouts from General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis, noting the automakers’ first offer was a 9% pay hike, but the union bargained them up to 25%.
Fain revealed the automakers put forth more than 30 contracts before the two sides reached tentative agreements.
Aside from economic gains, “we won back our dignity as auto workers,” Fain said. “We won back our pride in the UAW and being able to wear this label on our chest. We won back our strike muscle and we won back a vision to lead our labor movement out of 40 years in the desert towards an economy that works for the working class.”
Beyond running the laundry list of gains won by the union in these talks, Fain said he’s already laying the groundwork for the next round when, if ratified, these deals will expire on April 30, 2028. Calling the new contracts “just a start,” Fain has his eyes squarely on workers at automakers in the U.S. at companies from Japan and South Korea—workers the UAW has repeatedly failed to organize.
His message to those workers, essentially, is look what we just pulled off.
“Already non-union automakers like Toyota are raising wages and reducing their progression because they know their workers are ready to stand up, so it goes far beyond the Big Three,” said Fain. “We win when workers at Toyota, Subaru, Honda, Hyundai and other companies see what we’ve done and stand up for themselves.”
Addressing all automakers, Fain said the big lesson from the just-concluded talks is “we have now taught the companies not to underestimate us.”